EVANS MILLS — The year 2020 has unfolded beyond what anyone could imagine.
A virus was unleashed that has caused thousands of deaths, placed medical facilities and supplies at the most extreme and demanding levels of function and demand, and halted in its tracks the normal everyday activities of people such as you and me.
Our new identity became the wearing of protective masks and the practice of social distancing.
However, the year had more in store for us as it continued to unfold.
That more occurred as a result of the tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd due to an abusive and deadly action by one particular Minneapolis police officer.
This led to massive demonstrations throughout our nation (mostly peaceful) as well as unwelcomed acts of violence and destruction.
Some cities such as Minneapolis and New York became like “war zones” with police officers becoming targets of abuse and injury.
Black Lives Matter became the rallying cry for demonstrators.
Shouts for police reform became loud and boisterous.
Further actions included the toppling and destruction of historic statues and the removal of historic flags based on the premise that these items served as reminders of the days when Black people were enslaved.
Consequently, most of us were left in a state of shock and wondering if our country will ever recover from all of this social turbulence and turmoil.
As I reflected on this state of affairs, it caused me to think about the term “concupiscence.”
It refers to the doctrine of original sin or a disease or vice of origin.
It was a term brought to light during the Protestant Reformation of the 15th century and best expressed in Article II of a document of faith called the Augsburg Confession, which stated “since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is without the fear of God …”
Most philosophies taught that the nature of man was basically good, including communism.
Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle became the original endorsers of this thought.
Our Western culture, in particular, has been greatly influenced by Greek thought.
But most Protestant reformers, especially Martin Luther, agreed that all men and women are born inheriting a sinful nature.
No one has to teach man how to sin; it comes naturally!
Concupiscence also implies that even when man desires to do good, his actions create just the opposite effect.
I believe the things occurring in our society today are symptoms of concupiscence.
The Protestant Reformers also highly esteemed the authority of the Word of God as recorded in the Bible.
So they took seriously, for example, what the apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:12 and 17:
“Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone for everyone sinned. … For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many.”
This condition of sin can distort one’s thinking in believing that because we are capable of doing good things, we can’t be all bad.
However, listen to these words of Jesus:
“You fathers, if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful (or evil) people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Luke 11:11-13)
On another occasion, Jesus had these words to say in response to the issue of ceremonial cleansing and inner purity:
“Don’t you understand yet? Anything you eat passes through the stomach and is eliminated. But the words you speak from the heart is what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander. These are what defile you.” (Matthew 15:16-20)
The Bible indicates that the nature of sin is twofold at least.
It involves a rebellious streak that simply defies God’s commands and standards for living.
It is like a child being told not to touch the wet paint, and immediately he or she does just that!
Another aspect of the nature of sin is expressed by the apostle Paul in this manner:
“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand against all the strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world; against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6: 10-12)
Paul is talking about a living concept of demonology, which Jesus also believed in.
Unfortunately, our sophisticated society looks upon such expression as naïve and full of fantasy and imagination.
If the evidences of sin are not real to you in this world, then you are living blinded!
One can receive the truth and insights of the Bible as the Protestant Reformers did; or one can do as much of our society does, ignore those truth and insights.
I propose the answer to our real pandemic lies in the Gospel message best summarized in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that He gave or sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
I’ll conclude with this brief story:
A woman by the name of Joanna Flanders-Thomas starting visiting the incarcerated on a daily basis while living in South Africa.
She visited actually the most violent prison in South Africa that prior to her visits through the year recorded 279 acts of violence against inmates and guards.
As she began her visits, simply sharing the Gospel message and listening to men, those inmates began to confide in her about their lives.
That year, the number of violent assaults was reduced to two!
The Gospel holds the power to transform lives.
Does our country need a revival?
You be the judge!
The Rev. Steve Nagler of Evans Mills is a chaplain at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility. An ordained minister with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, he previously served as a chaplain in U.S. Army from 1985 to 2005.